Publix refuses to spell out 'summa cum laude' on graduation cake because of three little letters

Summa Cum Laude is the highest honor you can receive in school, so after Cara Koscinski’s son Jacob graduated from his high schoolhomeschooling program with a 4.79 GPA, she wanted to surprise him by putting the phrase on his cake. She never expected what would happen next.

When Koscinski went to cut the cake at the graduation party on Saturday, she saw that Publix, the grocery store chain where she ordered the cake, had censored out one of the words.

“Congrats Jacob!,” the cake read. “Summa — Laude Class of 2018.”

Koscinski tells PEOPLE that when her family noticed what had been done, they were shocked. “Jacob is not a dumb kid,” says Koscinski. “He knows what those words mean, and his friends were laughing so hard at it. He was humiliated though.”

To make matters worse, Jacob’s grandmother attended the party, and had to ask Koscinski for an explanation because she was confused about the censorship and didn’t understand why everyone was laughing.

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“Shame on you Publix for turning an innocent Latin phrase into a total embarrassment for having to explain to my son and others (including my 70 year old mother) about this joke of a cake,” Koscinski wrote on Facebook.

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Koscinski ordered the $70 cake through Publix’s online system, which automatically monitors submissions and autocorrects profane words to dashes. To avoid confusion, she says she included a note in the special instructions section detailing the origin of the Latin phrase with a link, and included her phone number for any further questions, but was never called.

After sharing her frustrations on Facebook, Koscinski called Publix to try and offer a solution so this doesn’t happen to any other families. She says she spoke with the assistant manager of the Charleston, S.C. location, who offered her a refund for the cake and a gift card to the store. Publix did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

Koscinski admits that while her party guests did eat the cake, nobody would eat the writing “because it was just gross at that point.”

In the future, Koscinski says she thinks cakes should have to go through a double-checking system, and they should call if they have any issues with the decorations. As for the online automatic censorship? She doesn’t see a point to it.

“I actually think that they should accept all requests for cakes,” Koscinski says. “Just let people submit things, because they’re paying $70 for a cake, and then [Publix] can use their discretion or call the family if they have a problem. I do think that the censorship of it all is absolutely ridiculous. Just to assume that every time you use the word c-u-m it means one thing is absolutely ridiculous.”

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